Supreme Court sponsors diversity training program

By The West Virginia Record | Dec 19, 2005

CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court recently sponsored a diversity training program for members of the judicial system from throughout West Virginia.

CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court recently sponsored a diversity training program for members of the judicial system from throughout West Virginia.

The five-day Train-the-Trainers Diversity program took place Dec. 5-9. Dr. Michael L. Lindsey, J.D., Ph.D., of Nestor Consultants in Dallas, assisted with the program. Lindsey is a nationally known consultant on minority issues, ethnic bias, juvenile justice and trial science.

The program taught professionals and others involved in key decision points about diversity issues and how to tear down bias – conscious or not – that affect decisions.

The program came about as a result of a series of classes Lindsey offered in 2004 to West Virginia prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, magistrates, probation officers, other court personnel and others interested. Those who attended those classes thought the information was vital and needed to be more widespread, and some wanted to learn how to provide the training themselves.

In addition, the Court's Task Force to Study Perceived Racial Disparity in the Juvenile Justice System held nine town meetings in late 2003. Those who attended likewise voiced the need for additional diversity training for court personnel to understand better cultural differences and similarities.

"Dr. Michael Lindsey and his program were much better than I had even anticipated," said trainee Joan Fontaine from Wood County. "I can still have my eyes opened and learn new ways to see people and situations.

"My words can't well enough relay my thoughts and feelings on this great program," said Fontaine, one of the senior-most juvenile probation officers in the state. "I will be sharing the information with my co-workers."

Steve Canterbury, Administrative Director of the Courts of West Virginia, expressed his appreciation to the State Justice Institute and the Division of Criminal Justice Services for providing funding for the program.

"Diversity should never be an obstacle to fairness at any point of contact in the judicial process," he said.

The following sixteen participants now are certified to provide this diversity program to interested individuals and organizations throughout the state: Family Court Judge Mike Kelly (Kanawha), Family Court Case Coordinator Marvin Lockett (Mercer), Magistrate Tammy Marple (Harrison), Magistrate David Harman (Mineral), Magistrate Carol Wolfe (Gilmer), Probation Officer Phyllis Stewart (Monongalia), Probation Officer Jason Hayner (Wood), Probation Officer Doug Dyer (Raleigh), Probation Officer Joan Fontaine (Wood), Special Projects Counsel Julie Palas (Supreme Court Administration), Receptionist Cheryl Porter (Supreme Court Administration), Warehouse Supervisor Russell Shelton (Supreme Court Administration), Prevention Resource Officer Capt. Ron E. Smith (Putnam), Prevention Resource Officer Sgt. Roger Criss (Monongalia), Prevention Resource Officer Sgt. Dave Harris, and Andrea Darr, J.D., (WV Prosecuting
Attorney's Institute).

For more information on how to provide this training, call one of the facilitators in your area or contact Julie Palas at (304) 558-0145 or juliepalas@courtswv.org.

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